My Mother Has Melanoma Cancer in Three Places
A Stitch in Time Saves Nine & Your Life...
My way of dealing with anxiety is to share my angst. My mother who I have been writing about has become quiet. We took a walk along the beach at Pismo Beach, California. She had a large bandage on her neck and a small reddish circular cavity on her nose. I asked her, “What happened?” She nonchalantly replied, “I had three skin cancers taken off.” I have had melanoma skin cancer removed and asked her if they were melanoma cancer. She replied, “Don’t worry, it is OK.”
Since I am a melanoma cancer survivor, I know that there are three types of cancers that account for virtually 100% of skin cancers. The non-melanomatous skin cancers include basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Malignant melanoma is the third, and most deadly, type of skin cancer. When they remove melanoma cancer, they remove a huge amount of material. It usually is about a three inch diameter hole then they stitch back to make a straight-line scar.
I asked how come they did not take more material out where the cavity is on her nose. She replied, “The specialist who does that will do it next week. It is a cosmetic surgery and requires skin graft.” I asked her again what type of cancer, “Are they melanoma?” She replied, yes.”
My mother is a feisty red head with fair skin. She has worked as a youth in the fields picking grapes, fruit and farm labor. She was “dirt poor.” The exposure to the sun had created this monster. This is the second time she has developed melanoma cancer as well as the other two types of skin cancers.
Survivors of invasive melanoma have an increased risk of developing subsequent primary cancers due to a number of factors, including impaired immunological status, genetic susceptibility, and behavioral issues.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, one in five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Sun exposure is the leading cause of skin cancer, and people with fair skin and light eyes whose skin has a tendency to burn easily in the sun are most susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be detected in their early stages since skin tumors are more visible than tumors of the internal organs. Not until the biopsy is done on the second (first time skin material removed, was when melanoma cancer was discovered requiring much more material be removed) procedure, I will know the melanoma cancer was removed before it spreads throughout her body. Should this occur, my world as I know it will drastically change…
Hopefully, within a week from today, we will hear great news that all three melanoma cancer sites were removed completely…
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a cancer that begins in the melanocytes (area just below skin surface). Because most of these cells still make melanin, melanoma tumors are often brown or black. But this is not always the case, and melanomas can also have no color. Melanoma most often starts on the trunk (chest or back) in men and on the legs of women, but it can start in other places, too. Having dark skin lowers the risk of melanoma. But it does not mean that a person with dark skin will never get melanoma.
Melanoma can almost always be cured in its early stages. But it is likely to spread to other parts of the body if it is not caught early. Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers (described below), but it is far more dangerous.
Melanoma is one of the most common cancers. The chance of developing it increases with age, but this disease affects people of all ages. It can occur on any skin surface. In men, melanoma is often found on the trunk (the area between the shoulders and the hips) or the head and neck. In women, it often develops on the lower legs. Melanoma is rare in black people and others with dark skin. When it does develop in dark-skinned people, it tends to occur under the fingernails or toenails, or on the palms or soles.
When melanoma spreads, cancer cells may show up in nearby lymph nodes. Groups of lymph nodes are found throughout the body. Lymph nodes trap bacteria, cancer cells, or other harmful substances that may be in the lymphatic system. If the cancer has reached the lymph nodes, it may mean that cancer cells have spread to other parts of the body such as the liver, lungs, or brain. In such cases, the cancer cells in the new tumor are still melanoma cells, and the disease is called metastatic melanoma.
Surgery is generally not effective in controlling melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body. In such cases, doctors may use other methods of treatment, such as chemotherapy, biological therapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these methods.
Time is very important. Melanoma if removed in time is highly successfully treatable/cured. Do yourself a favor and do the following…
What steps are involved in performing a skin self-exam?
The best time to do a skin self-exam is after a shower or bath. You should check your skin in a well-lighted room using a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror. It's best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles, and blemishes are and what they usually look and feel like.
Check for anything new:
•A new mole (that looks abnormal)
•A change in the size, shape, color, or texture of a mole
•A sore that does not heal
Check yourself from head to toe. Don't forget to check all areas of the skin, including the back, the scalp, between the buttocks, and the genital area.
1. Look at your face, neck, ears, and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair because this is difficult to do yourself.
2. Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at your left and right sides.
3. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides), and upper arms.
4. Examine the back, front, and sides of your legs. Also, look between your buttocks and around your genital area.
5. Sit and closely examine your feet, including the toenails, the soles, and the spaces between the toes. By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what is normal for you. It may be helpful to record the dates of your skin exams and to write notes about the way your skin looks. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away.
My mother has had her successful surgery! She is doing great! All of the cancers were removed. Everything is shifting back to "normal." A great ending...! We danced last night with her nose in stitches. She has stitches from her corner of her eye down to the tip of her nose... With no bandage, she stands tall. Most people are not aware of her surgery! Great ending to life's challenges and opportunities...
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